Council of Europe orders Poland to 'annul' homophobic 'LGBT-free' zones

The call from the Council of Europe is the latest in a long line of backlash received by Poland for the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ ideology.

Europe Poland

Leading human rights organisations, the Council of Europe, has called on Poland to annul its ‘LGBT-free’ zones.

On Wednesday, June 16, the council’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities adopted a resolution condemning the “rising anti-LGBTI hate speech and discrimination” which has spread through Poland in recent years.

The Council’s resolution included a recommendation that central governments develop national action plans designed to combat discrimination and improve rights for LGBTQ+ people.

“Across Europe, the rights and recognition of LGBTI people are under pressure,” said rapporteur Andrew Boff.

“Rising hate speech is creating divisions between the citizens of our towns and regions. Against this, local and regional authorities must strengthen the social rights and well-being of their LGBTI citizens and promote dialogue. We have a duty to all our fellow citizens to create inclusive societies.”

Over 100 local authorities in Poland call themselves ‘LGBT-free zones’. These areas have declared themselves free of queer ‘ideology’, with local governments refraining from encouraging tolerance of the LGBTQ+ community and denying financial aid to organisations promoting equality.

The ruling PiS party recently introduced a new law that bars same-sex couples or single lesbians and gay men from adopting children.

The Council of Europe also noted homophobic discourse in mainstream society and politics in Poland.

“Rising conservative and fundamentalist voices in Europe are increasingly politicising the issue of LGBTI identity and designating LGBTI people as scapegoats, questioning diversity in general, and LGBTI people’s human rights and the legitimacy of their identity, in particular,” they said.

“Neither cultural, traditional nor religious values, nor the rules of a ‘dominant culture’ can be invoked to justify hate speech or any other form of discrimination,” they concluded.

The spread of ‘LGBT-free’ zones across Poland has been condemned at many levels and has resulted in a loss of EU funding for the ‘LGBT-free’ towns.

In July 2020, the European Commission rejected the applications of six ‘LGBT-free’ Polish towns for community funding because their discriminatory political stance does not respect “fundamental rights”.

This backlash and loss in EU funding have led to a number of towns backtracking on the ‘LGBT-free’ status.

Following Nowa Dęba’s declaration last year as an LGBT-free zone, their sister town of Fermoy in Co. Cork announced their decision to terminate their twinning arrangement. Nowa Dęba has since rescinded this declaration.

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